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What You Need to Know about a Spinal Epidural Abscess

A spinal epidural abscess is a dangerous complication from an infection in your central nervous system. Failure to diagnose and treat this condition quickly can have life-altering results, including permanent paralysis. In some cases, these infections can be fatal.

Spinal epidural abscesses typically form “between the bones of your spine and the lining membrane of your spinal cord,” per Johns Hopkins Medicine. The infection causes a pocket of pus to form in these spaces. This leads to swelling; that swelling is what causes the pain.

What causes a spinal epidural abscess?

Spinal epidural abscesses are usually the result of bacterial or fungal infections.  They can begin elsewhere in the body and travel into the spinal cord or column, or they develop directly in the area. As such, you can develop a spinal epidural abscess from the introduction of bacteria or fungus because of an open wound (from a car accident or other traumatic event), a non-sterile needle, an already-occurring spinal issue (like a compression fracture), or during surgery.

However, spinal epidural abscesses can be challenging to diagnose. Per Medscape, “Frequently, diagnosis is delayed because the initial presentation are non-specific (ie, only nonspecific back pain without any ‘red flag’ symptoms). Half of all cases of spinal epidural abscess are estimated to be misdiagnosed or have a delayed diagnosis” (Emphasis added).

This is why post-trauma and post-op follow-up care is critical for anyone who has recently undergone spinal surgery or sustained any injury to their back; an infection can develop, and your doctors should be keeping a close eye on your recovery and any symptoms you have. Given how often this condition is misdiagnosed or subject to delayed diagnosis, doctors should be running any applicable diagnostic tests for spinal epidural abscesses as part of your care – especially if you present with back pain.

What are the symptoms that indicate that you may have a spinal epidural abscess?

If you believe that you may have a spinal epidural abscess, there are certain symptoms that you should keep an eye out for. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Terrible back pain
  • Tenderness in the back
  • Fevers
  • Bladder or bowel issues
  • Inability to walk or move around

Unfortunately, these symptoms are similar to a variety of other health conditions. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is crucial that you alert your doctor right away to ensure that you get immediate testing, diagnosis, and treatment. Most of the time, your healthcare provider will order an MRI test to look for a spinal epidural abscess. However, CT scans are also commonly used to locate any issues within the back or spinal cord.

Are some people more likely to develop a spinal epidural abscess than others?

Unfortunately, some people are more likely to develop a spinal epidural abscess than others, such as those who:

  • Are diabetic
  • Have HIV or AIDS
  • Drink alcohol frequently or are an alcoholic
  • Do drugs
  • Recently underwent a spinal surgery, epidural anesthesia, or any other spinal medical procedure
  • Have a spinal injury or experienced trauma to their spinal cord
  • Have a low immune system
  • Have chronic renal failure
  • Are 60 years of age or older
  • Have or had cancer

What complications can patients experience with a spinal epidural abscess?

It is crucial that a spinal epidural abscess is diagnosed as quickly as possible. If the patient is not diagnosed quick enough, they may have serious and permanent complications or even die from this condition. The following are a few of the most common complications that patients experience with a spinal epidural abscess:

  • Permanent or temporary paralysis
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Muscle weakness
  • Permanent nerve problems and damage
  • Pressure sores
  • Recurring urinary tract infections
  • Infections and sepsis
  • Meningitis
  • Decrease in motor function
  • Depression and other mental health issues
  • Death

Our work in Savannah with a client who have suffered from a spinal epidural abscess

If you suffer from a spinal epidural abscess that occurred after a medical procedure or your doctor failed to diagnose your condition in a timely manner, Harris Lowry Manton LLP is here to legally assist you. Our team has experience with these types of cases. Therefore, we know how to navigate the legal process and get the results you desire and deserve for your spinal epidural abscess.

One of our Savannah clients had a spinal epidural abscess that was left untreated. Due to her delayed diagnosis, she became permanently paralyzed in both of her legs. After reviewing the details and facts of this woman’s case, our Savannah medical malpractice attorneys knew that medical negligence was involved, and we wanted to do everything we could to get her the justice and compensation she was entitled to. We built a strong case and stood up and fought for her rights, resulting in a $18 million verdict. The jury found that the hospital and the doctor were responsible for failing to diagnose and provide treatment for our client’s spinal epidural abscess. Unfortunately, she will never be able to walk again for the rest of her life, but this compensation will help her cover her bills and rebuild her life again.

At Harris Lowry Manton LLP, we believe that spinal epidural abscesses should be taken seriously as well as treated and diagnosed promptly. Therefore, if a doctor does not listen to your symptoms or fails to provide you with the care that you deserve and need for this condition, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team at your earliest convenience. All you have to do is complete our contact form and we will schedule your appointment to begin discussing your legal options. You can find our medical malpractice lawyers in both Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia.

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